Linux for housewives. XP for geeks.

Linux for housewives. XP for geeks.

Summary: The computer proletariat is rising up - and computing will never be the same. Tiny, sub-$500 "netbooks" like the Asus Eee are the hottest thing going in notebooks today.


The computer proletariat is rising up - and computing will never be the same. Tiny, sub-$500 "netbooks" like the Asus Eee are the hottest thing going in notebooks today. And some surprising things are happening. Like housewives on Linux.

Asus is forecasting worldwide shipments of 10 million 7 to 10 inch screen netbooks this year! And a billion in 2018.

Appliance computing In an article in the Asian business publication Tech-on reporter Tomohiro Otsuki writes:

Retailers and contract manufacturers in Taiwan say that novice PC users there, like students and housewives, tend to buy the Linux version of the Eee PC701, while geeks go for Windows XP.

Does that sound backwards?

Yet a quick look at Amazon shows that Asus Eee's with XP roughly $35-$100 more than their Linux brethern. Housewives know a bargain when they see one.

Microsoft Research's Gordon Bell noted that every 10 years a new form of computing emerges thanks to Moore's Law and the declining cost/increasing performance of ICs. Looks like the netbook is this decade's new form: a minimalist computer for Internet, email, chatting, video and light application use.

The new market leaders A big surprise is that inventors and leaders in this new segment are the Taiwanese firms that build, for other people, most of the world's notebooks. The contract manufacturers, who mostly assemble to spec, are enjoying the freedom to build their own products using their own sense of what the market wants.

Taiwan is the wild East. Expect some crazy experiments - and some revolutionary products.

The Storage Bits take This is the chance Linux partisans have been waiting for - and it's coming faster than I'd expected. Microsoft is reportedly charging $60 for netbook XP - a big chunk of a $200 computer's cost. As Netscape discovered it is hard to compete with "free."

If Taiwanese housewives are buying Linux the guys in Redmond need to sharpen their pencils. Housewives don't need Office and Exchange. What do they need?

And Apple will be late to this party as they've got their hands full with the iPhone and Snow Leopard. Apple has a history of missing these big shifts - if they haven't invented them - as they did with towers replacing desktops in the mid-90s.

The netbook space promises to be a lot of fun.

Comments welcome, of course. Maybe Taiwanese housewives are really really smart?

Topics: Windows, Hardware, Linux, Microsoft, Open Source, Operating Systems, Software

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  • Not that strange

    From a complete novice point of view, Linux isn't hard at all. If you just want to use the provided applications and not fiddle around/tweak with the settings too much. You will be fine.

    You still need XP for computergames, that's the geeky angle i guess :)
    • I fully agree. And as to games....

      ....those netbooks aren't fit for gaming anyway, as their hardware is too weak in performance.

      Furthermore, housewives won't have to worry about viruses and malware, when they have a Linux machine. :-)
    • The geek angle is simple.

      Its the FUD. Its really the semi-geeks that want to be able to tweak and play but aren't "geeky enough" to actually dive into something new. I'm sure many of them here all this Linux is hard or doesn't work FUD and shoot straight for the XP version.

      Those that don't know and don't care about an OS just buy the cheaper one, turn it on and follow what they see on the screen.
  • Reintroducing the Foleo!

    All the rage with netbooks makes me laugh at Palm's shortcomings even more. When they announced the Foleo, the ultimate netbook, it was shunned so quick it was killed before seeing the light of day. Wss it too far ahead of its time? Did they just market it wrong as the 'smartphone companion'? Now that I'm interested in something like the upcoming Dell Latitude E, I kind of wish the Foleo was around - I would have considered it.
    • Foleo was too limited

      Well, i think that the Foleo was too limited ,too expensive and that Palm strongly underestimated the potential of such tool.
      Too bad for them.
      • Palm blew it

        Foleo had some good ideas. Not the ultimate thing, but they
        were doing something bold instead of repackaging their old
        stuff at a lower price point.

        I wish they'd brought it to market. Give what the Eee has
        done I'll bet they're wishing they had too.

        R Harris
  • RE: Linux for housewives. XP for geeks.

    Well, the Linux based version of notebooks are not appealing only to housewives.
    I am a geek and i am much more interested by the Linux version of these netbooks than by the XP version.
    I find that such tool are not aimed at being one's main notebook,especially for a geek, but a cheap,easy to carry and focused for specific tasks second notebook.
    Moreover,i find that XP is not taylored for such tool as the need of security software would make them too bloated to be really useful.

    I planned to buy the Asus Eee PC 901 but the lack of availability of Linux based version 901 is making me consider the ACER Aspire One which looks prettier, which is cheaper and which seems to have a significantly better keyboard.
  • RE: Linux for housewives. XP for geeks.

    My wife uses our computers just like a "netbook." She mostly does email and Internet stuff, with an occasional Rich Text document thrown in. At first, she was reluctant to shift to Linux, but with the advent of Firefox 3, she no longer pines for Windows. I think she would be very happy with a netbook running Linux, even with the tiny screen. And I would be happy with the lower price.
  • More shenanigans from Microsoft.

    According to this article:

    The cost of Windows XP for netbooks in developed countries is not $60, but $22 to $32 ($32 base, but with the possibility of a $10 rebate for manufacturers who "meet certain requirements" - presumably meaning NOT offering Linux AT ALL).

    Microsoft doesn't seem to understand that you can't undercut the price of Linux and drive it out of business. It's already free!
  • @ of them

    I bought 2 eee 701's.

    One for myself and one for my daughter. We use them all the time. The Xandros Linux running in full desktop mode is all my daughter uses.

    I can't imagine why ASUS sold out to MS. They had a great thing going. Now they are creating an opening for the other vendors because they chose to focus on slowing their netbooks by using XP. Once you get antivirus running along with antispyware/adware plus continual updates adding to the bloat the performance is slowed to a crawl.

    I was considering a 901 but now it looks like the Acer Aspire One running Linux has upstaged ASUS.
    Tim Patterson
    • Sold out?

      Since when is choice "sold out?"

      I own two of them as well. I have XP with Office Xp and MS Streets and trips GPS on one, and the second one has Ubuntu.

      A minimal AVG install on the Xp version doesn't impact performance. Nothing has slowed to a crawl, although granted there is no way I'd put office 2007 on it.

      As for the Ubuntu version, there are finally good enough drivers that I like it way better than the Xandros.
      • tried

        I have used an Eee runnng XP and it is definitely slower than the default Xandros in full desktop mode. And that was without antivirus installed.

        I am however interested in installing Ubuntu on mine to check it out.
        Tim Patterson
        • Ubuntu runs well ...

          I switched to running Ubuntu on my 701 recently. It runs very well even with most of the Compiz features running. The only problem is that the wireless drivers, camera drivers, and OSD display are not current and have to be downloaded, compiled, and installed.

          Fortunately if you use the eeebuntu ISO all of the current drivers and patches are already applied:

          Just use the additional script to load the ISO onto a USB pen drive to install. On the 701 all you have to do is insert the pen drive, press the power, hit the escape button at the eeePC boot screen and choose the pen drive from the boot menu.

          Now if you update the kernel you need to recompile those drivers again the new running kernel, but the source code and instructions are already loaded on the computer. It couldn't be any easier. ;)
      • BTW

        I did install pupeee to an SD and it fly's on the Eee.
        Tim Patterson
  • Apple

    Apple is in this space too, just not in the same form factor. The iPhone is all about getting the housewife access to basic information on the go. Netbooks are too big to have with you always and too small for regular at-home use. They have their sweet spot, don't get me wrong, but I just don't see a housewife using one. The Eee desktop or an Eee all-in-one is more likely. (and yes, Linux is there too.)

    Even pocketing my N810 is a little too cumbersome to warrant keeping it with me all the time just in case I might need it. The iPhone, on the other hand, is just about right. The restrictions people endure due to lack of keyboard, screen size, and multi-tasking are worth the any time/any where access it provides.

    I'm not so sure Apple as "missed" this innovation as much as has the same goal but is using a different road to get there.
    • Housewife and iPhone?

      I'm not sure if Apple is targeting the same audience as these other products.

      I would suspect (though I have no evidence for this) that a housewife would hesitate to buy a $200 iPhone 3G and then pay $70 (or more) per month for a service plan.
      • Not a fanboy... but...

        Disclaimer: I do not own an iPhone. I'm a linux user.

        The minimum monthly fee for an iPhone on an AT&T family plan is $9.99 + $20 (or $30 for 3G). $40 a month for a phone that will do basic email, messaging, surfing, etc. All with the limitation of no solid keyboard and a small monitor. So $200 + $40/mo.

        The netbooks around running around $200. A basic cell phone on an AT&T family plan will run $9.99/mo. $200 + $10/mo.

        She saves $30/mo with the netbook but won't have access to it randomly throughout the day when away from home.

        I see netbooks being more popular with school kids who already carry backpacks and could benefit from less weight.
        • Mixing prices...

          Some interesting points, but I think you are mixing iPhone and iPhone 3G prices.

          The iPhone 3G costs $200 to purchase, subsidized by the carrier (AT&T). Monthly for the bottom level plan is $69.99 (not including the unlimited SMS and other add-ons). See

          If someone gets an old iPhone, it will cost at least $200 (used), but it qualifies for the cheaper plan pricing that you mentioned.

          Also, most major cell carriers do not charge you $200 for most phones because they provide a discount. That price level is typical of smartphone markets (which is where the iPhone competes), not the phones a housewife would normally get. For example, if you look at the home page of AT&T's wireless division you'll see a link to 27 phone models that come free with a 2 yr. activation.

          So really, a housewife getting a basic cellphone could get a free phone and pay the $10/mo. for a family talk plan. So they could save $60/mo. ($720/yr.) by going with a netbook. Over the life of the contract that is saving $1440.
    • Don't see how you can compare iPhone to Netbooks

      First Netbooks are significantly cheaper and second they have much higher capabilities than the iPhone thanks to the full keyboard, significantly bigger screen,overall more powerful hardware and full Desktop O.S.
      So yes Apple miss the boat of the Netbooks however i think that Netbooks don't fit the policy of Apple, anyway.
      • Easy

        Obviously they can be compared. Both are computing devices intended for light, mobile access, for example.

        The problem with the "netbook" is that it is a full-featured portable device but not an easily portable device. If you have a large purse, it may be workable, otherwise, the netbook is too cumbersome for casual use. If housewives were needing full-featured portable computing devices today we'd see some of them carrying around small laptops already. We don't because they don't need them.

        Now the Eee desktops where you get a large monitor and fully keyboard attached to your cheap linux PC is probably perfect for them.

        If what they want it easily portable, they'll go for the iPhone or any other larger phone PDA rather than a netbook. The minimum monthly fee for an iPhone on a family plan is $30 ($9.99 + $20). These days, she's going to have a cell phone anyway so the difference in cost between netbook + phone and iPhone (or Blackberry) is almost zero.